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Hosts Stacey Harris and John Sumser discuss important news and topics in recruiting and HR technology. Listen live every Thursday or catch up on full episodes with transcriptions here.

HR Tech Weekly

Episode: 286
Air Date: October 1, 2020





Important: Our transcripts at HRExaminer are AI-powered (and fairly accurate) but there are still instances where the robots get confused (or extremely confused) and make errors. Please expect some inaccuracies as you read through the text of this conversation and let us know if you find something wrong and we’ll get it fixed right away. Thank you for your understanding.

SPEAKERS: Stacey Harris and John Sumser


John Sumser: Good morning and welcome to HR Tech Weekly, One Step Closer with Stacey Harris and John Sumser. Good morning, Stacey.

[00:00:22] Stacey Harris: Good morning, John. How are you doing?

[00:00:24] John Sumser: You know, this is an Eeyore morning, the fires are back up again around me. So, we’re breathing chunky air and everything is a little out of sorts.

[00:00:33] Stacey Harris: Yeah. Yeah.

[00:00:34] It’s really hard. I know I watched the news. They were saying there’s two fires that are only 10% contained. And I can’t imagine days on end, which is what you’re going through, of sort of skies that look like what we see during sort of a day or so of really bad hurricane weather and thunderstorms and those kinds of things.

[00:00:49] So, yeah. We’re hoping everybody stays safe out there. Here in North Carolina, we’re starting to get nice fall weather. So you guys are well welcome to come this way anytime you want. Yeah, it is crisp weather with the apples are out and the sun is shining. But don’t knock on wood somewhere. We’re not through hurricane season quite yet.

[00:01:07] So we’ll wait and see what happens there. Are you able with all that’s going on outside of your environment to sort of focus on what you’re working on right now in preparation for sort of the big fall events that you’re going to be going to, have you been able to take a little bit of time and energy to dive deep into some of the artificial intelligence work that you’ve been doing?

[00:01:25] John Sumser: Yeah, that’s all there is to do because you can’t go outside. So it’s a good time to be working all the time. Yeah, the stuff for the fall conferences is really, I mean, together, I’m looking at building another watch list and talking about the emerging ideas in artificial intelligence, which are almost at the edges of intelligibility.

[00:01:50] You know, we were talking before the show about, about how you do thousands Oh, scenarios and then scenarios that best match your circumstances. And. That sounds like a nightmare of a spreadsheet problem, but it’s a kind of a trivial thing for computing to do. And so that means we need to learn how to read these graphs that show us the relationship between the various scenarios so that we can do it.

[00:02:18] How do you get people savvy enough with the technology so that they can do something is a question of looking pretty far though.

[00:02:25] Stacey Harris: Well, I’ll tell you, you know, it’s interesting because this kind of what we used to call it branching back in the learning days. Right? But this is like branching on steroids concept with the idea of data behind it, not just the possibilities, but an area where you guys, the market might actually look to get some sense of this is in the gaming industry.

[00:02:42] The gaming industry has been building out these kinds of models, at least forever. Now the question is, can you add real data in them versus sort of what you would consider to be rural engines that these gaming industries have put forward? But I think there’s probably some interesting intersections between that market and what you’re talking about.

[00:02:59] John Sumser: I’m starting to see it, I’m starting to see it. Virtual reality is becoming a thing. And it’s becoming a thing based on better thinking about skills and their relationship to each other than is currently the case in the big places that we’re thinking about skills.

[00:03:16] Stacey Harris: Interesting, yeah.

[00:03:17] John Sumser: So, let me give you an example.

[00:03:18] Stacey Harris: OK, that’d be great. Yeah.

[00:03:20] John Sumser: So, I’ll try to get this quick.

[00:03:22] When you look at resumes and job descriptions and try to extract skills information from them, which is what all of the major projects. The problem that you run into is that the most important skills are never documented because everybody knows what they are. So the example I like to use is that in nursing, a primary determinant of nursing career is how good you are giving shots.

[00:03:48] And resumes and job descriptions never cover giving shots because everybody knows that you got to be good at that. Or if you like, you need to not be in charge. And so the nursing profession leads people along this, can you give shots well or not line? And it’s never covered in any of the skill stuff, but it’s a super interesting skill because giving shots well is technical.

[00:04:15] You have to be good at the whole mechanical business of inserting a needle into some other human being. And it’s also about the soft skill of empathy, but it has the soft skill of empathy in a way that a lot of soft skills and work, which is if you have too much empathy, you’re a bad shot giver. At some point, the shot giver has to hurt the patient.

[00:04:37] And you try a lot to not hurt them, but really sticking them with a needle it’s gonna hurt. And so you have to have just enough empathy to care about not hurting people, but not so much empathy that it breaks your heart to hurt people. And a lot of soft skills are like that. They’re sort of a Goldilocks problem where you can have just the right amount of skill.

[00:05:00] To be good at a job, but if you have too much of it, you know, and none of the stuff about soft skills that I’ve ever received and really addresses this, this way, the gaming companies that are turning into virtual reality to deliver training, cross the skills base inside of HR tech. That’s what they’re looking at.

[00:05:19] And the rethinking all over the stuff that everybody else takes for granted because that’s what game companies do. And so I expect real, real innovation to pop out of the gaming industry, into our space.

[00:05:32] Stacey Harris: Well, I would be a big fan of that for once my son and I, who is big in the gaming industry would have a cross conversation that I think we could both enjoy greatly.

[00:05:40] So yeah, no, it’s fascinating to watch what’s happening in both those places. The other place I was going to mention, which we had been talking a little bit about where this is also coming to fruition, unfortunately in great. If it would have come to fruition a little bit earlier is the epidemiology space, right?

[00:05:54] Where we’re talking about the movement of viruses and what’s going on with the Corona virus. And there was some great article this week in the Atlantic about the difference between cluster effect to spreading. I’m obviously not going to get it as well as that article. So I would recommend reading, but basically the difference between the flu to has a general behavioral pattern of movement that could historically watch and see and be able to sort of give averages to and the coronavirus and part of the reason why I’ve had such a hard time predicting how it would react and making predictions about its future is because it has this cluster model that if you have the right situation, the right kind of person, the right kind of environment, right. You have a super spreader and then, you know, two streets over kind of almost the same situation, but you’re missing one or two factors.

[00:06:36] You’re not going to have a super spreader. And so you can’t predict what is going to happen in every case. And so it was interesting to read that and think about how that kind of modeling is. You know, we, we work so much here, especially in the West on averages, the average person, the average. The idea, the average concept and where you fall on that, or either the top 10% of the bottom 10% of any one grouping of things.

[00:06:57] We do not look at the span of the different scenarios, the different options and what those factors are. And that’s, I think part of what we’re seeing come out of that market as well. So yeah. Good stuff. All of it.

[00:07:07] John Sumser: Yup. Yup. What that means is that the companies network analysis of organizations are going to start to have a really interesting experience because those are the companies who look at the non average behavior of employees and try to figure out what that means.

[00:07:22] So I would expect that we’ll see epidemiology enter into sort of. It already is all over the basic math of epidemiologists, all over people, analytics. And it’ll start to bubble out so that we have tools for HR to think about managing populations rather than managing individuals.

[00:07:44] Stacey Harris: It will be interesting population versus individuals.

[00:07:46] That’s a conversation to have with our HR tech companies.

[00:07:49] John Sumser: Cool. Interesting.

[00:07:51] So what’s in the mailbag.

[00:07:53] Stacey Harris: Well the mailbag was really full this week, which is where some of the counties we just talked about ended up, we’re really looking at the beginning of what you would consider the fall announcement season, but a couple of really big things.

[00:08:04] One is just a short announcement from IHRM. Again, you know, I’m on the board for it, full disclosure, but. You know, iron as an association for HR technologists and the HR community, that’s trying to build up their skill sets in the technology space. And so for me, it’s always done area that I enjoy working in and they’ve invested heavily and putting their workforce solutions journal magazine, which they have published for the last 20 years.

[00:08:26] Always been in a paper based form has had a little bit of an online version, but a little bit hard to use. They have now redesigned the entire magazine and put it all online in a way that makes it more searchable and more usable, which I think is always good if you’re looking for insight and data, but there’s also been some interesting stuff going on in the business.

[00:08:43] Phenom acquired a company called My Ally. We can talk a little bit about that. We think after reading through the fine print, that this is an automated scheduling tool possibly. Paycor acquires a company called seven geese, which is performance management folks, because if you don’t follow the SMB HR tech space, Paycor is one of the rising stars out of the Cincinnati Ohio market.

[00:09:02] AnyVision, which gets to a little bit of some of the stuff that we were talking about in the last couple of episodes. John is a company that is focused on artificial intelligence, enabled visual intelligence software. That’s what they call it. But basically it’s authentication of entering into rooms of logging onto systems of accessing tools.

[00:09:22] They have authentication systems that are touchless. And so there’s been a $43 million investment in that kind of an organization. So it’s worth talking about where that fits in the new HR world. Workforce management startup Legion raises 22 million, not a company I’ve had a chance to follow, but worth maybe talking about because that’s the investment of their series B 22 million comes from Stripes with participation from Workday ventures. We also have an update on Workday announcing their own brand new product areas in the area of diversity and inclusion as well as back to work.

And so we can talk a little bit about those Oracle made some announcements of their own current technology updates in particularly in the area of back to work.

[00:10:02] So we can talk a little bit about what that looks like and their scenario, his ear had big updates that they launched in. I talked about in their new analytics platform and connecting to integrations. And then we had a couple of, I think, less, probably noticeable, but often really big stories. Tyler Technologies, which is one of the technology systems that many of our government agencies and large organizations from a state and public sector level use had a huge ransomware attack, which impacted more than 15,000 local government offices.

[00:10:34] So that’s probably worth mentioning. And then if we get some time, John, I mean, there’s a lot of conversations about what people are doing from the COVID-19 perspective. We’re now starting to see lawsuits. We’re now starting to see companies being held accountable for what they asked employees to do over the last several months.

[00:10:51] We’re also seeing employees being fired because of things they’re telling their employers and how we’re not, that is coming into play. So probably worth having a little bit of a discussion about all of that as well. So big week, anything in here that you really want to focus on though?

[00:11:06] John Sumser: Oh, let’s let you pick today.

[00:11:10] Stacey Harris: Well, why don’t we talk a little bit about what these, the purchase of My Ally by Phenom. I mean, Phenom has been doing a lot of interesting stuff. You’ve spent quite a bit of time with them, but I mean, is the purchase of a scheduling tool, just an added piece to their already growing mixture of technologies.

[00:11:28] Does this move them a little bit closer to more of a full ATS with this kind of technology?

[00:11:34] John Sumser: I don’t think it moves them cores well, ATS, but it does increase their capacity to claim that they automate the drudgery in recruiting. And so the norm is becoming an operation that delivers. Completely individualized experiences for each candidate or applicant inside of the system, and then reduces the workload for the recruiter in handling the people who have those things.

[00:12:01] And that’s interesting because it is up to do the stuff that really matters, which is making sure that people that you’re talking to will make a difference inside of the organization. And so. It’s a good move. And part of what it tells you is that, um, is having a pretty good recovery and they’re able to have their heads up there, look around and do some acquisition and that’s a good, good indicator that they’re going to survive.

[00:12:30] Stacey Harris: Yeah, I would agree. And you, and I mentioned this probably just about two months ago, right. We said, watch for the acquisitions are going to start to come. You know, Paycor is acquisition of seven. Geese, I think is a, is another example of that? You know, I’m analyzing the early data this year. I can tell you Paycor’s coming out as strong as they did last year, probably in our research from the annual HR systems survey. I think they are one of the many SMB. Providers who hit that sweet spot for that SMB organization that realized that they had to really effectively manage it their workforce from a remote perspective.

[00:13:05] And so you saw an uptick in some of the payroll and core HRMS investments for that SMB market that had to quickly shift to a digital environment. And so they’re taking a little bit of that extra. It looks like an investing in spaces that are focused on feedback and three sixties and performance issues that SMBs have not been traditionally focused on, but we’ll make them a lot or, and fits what they’ve been doing for the last several years did about a year and a half ago, they purchased Newton Recruiting, which has now become their Paycor core recruiting.
[00:13:34] And so they’re going to create a whole suite. It looks like of HR technologies beyond the HR area. So, very similar story, it sounds like.

[00:13:41] John Sumser: Yep. Yeah. Yeah. Well, this world that we live in 200 person companies can use a tool like, and what you get from somebody like Paycor is a freedom from bulky overheads of customers who are used to dealing with big clients.

[00:13:56] It’s super hard to meet both markets. I do think we’ll see an explosion of new providers down the so-called low end of the business, but that’s where most values create the academies. And so if you can figure out how to do HR tech in those kinds of settings, you can make a real difference.

[00:14:14] Stacey Harris: Yeah. And the impact that can be real powerful across particularly globally, but most of these are focused right now on the US but I think at international, we’ll see this spread as well. What about this AnyVision? This is a $43 million investment in a company that says they are an AI enabled visual intelligence software that focuses on touchless access control and remote authentication using sort of facial authentication as well as it looks like it’s using some sort of hand movement reading.

[00:14:43] This is a scifi of the future, but where we’re actually heading in a lot of organizations. Do you think this is the purview of HR because they particularly mentioned HR in this announcement and saying that, you know, to bring people back safely, the human resource function is going to have to start looking at these technologies.

[00:14:59] I know we’ve talked about this for a while. Do you think this becomes now the HR’s responsibility?

[00:15:04] John Sumser: Certainly the responsibility for making sure that the workplace is safe is HR. Whether or not facial recognition tools make it safer or less safe is probably subject to debate. So, yes, there’s a problem making sure that only healthy people get into the conference room. If you’re going to use conference room at all, it’s important that only healthy people get into certain array of places. And that means you have to monitor the health of those people. The idea that you can use, the data that you monitor for health purposes as an underlying principle in access to things.

[00:15:46] I think that’s probably problematic in a lot of markets. Right? So you can, you can understand why it would be good to have Iris driven access to the building or your turns out your heartbeat is a unique fingerprint pattern. So you could get in and out of the building based on your heart pattern, but there’s all sorts of ethical issues here.

[00:16:10] Right? All sorts of ethical issues. Cam this facial recognition technology actually understand the faces. Oh, all people with all different skin tones or is it just another thing that only looks at people? I can see other people, these are the ethical issues that HR has to wrestle with. And there are no perfect solutions right now, and a lot of opportunities to make mistakes.

[00:16:37] And so. The decision making environment means looking at stuff like this and assessing, and then making a decision and about using it. And so, and so my guess is they’re going to be running a little ahead of that curve and people will buy this tool without thinking that hard about it. Well, we have to do as an industry is make sure that people understand that the consequences of your decision, some have traumatic impact on your workforce.

[00:17:07] Stacey Harris: Yeah, I’m just sitting here thinking about, you know, and would this be just a facility managers conversation sometimes? But the impact on the people in the organization and your comment about whether or not this actually reads the facial environment appropriately and does not include biases or just not include issues.

[00:17:24] If I have a, you know, I’m dealing with a beard this week or not, you’re those kinds of things, that is something that, that would be up to HR and a really test. And so that is really their role to make sure that anything that’s brought into the organization doesn’t have an adverse impact. And this kind of stuff touches everyone in the organization.

[00:17:40] So I get it’s great feedback for everyone. It sort of leads into there’s an article I have, you know, that I had highlighted, but it’s way down in the conversation. Didn’t think we’d get to it today. But I think it really ties to this is that there’s being research, being done at the various universities on exploring the ways people can use voices to diagnose coronavirus infections, dementia, depression, and other factors.

[00:18:01] Lot of research study, being done in this space. They’re looking at various tools and technologies and a lot of conversation about how ethical that is, but how powerful it could be. What can you tell by the intonation of the person’s voice to feel a little bit like in the early days where, you know, people used to say, they could tell your intelligence by the bumps on your head kind of thing, but I’m hoping or assuming there’s more science behind this, but that’s what it felt like when I was reading this, I mean, Are you seeing that kind of level of expectation that we will get to analysis around things like voice and making some of these decisions as well, John, and some of the work that you’re doing with organizations.

[00:18:40] John Sumser: What people are trying to figure out is how to take the data that we can get or arrange together and make population-based assessments of the organization. There’s a lot of, lot of movement humanize is doing interesting stuff with the idea that organizational health is a network health measurement.

[00:19:01] Right. And when you start to look at the complexity of how networks operate inside of organizations, and you start to think about what it means that the health of those networks is the health of the company. You get into some interesting territory, you can tell all sorts of things about people with data, as long as you understand that it is a correlation.

[00:19:25] Right. So if Alexa tells you, you have COVID with Alexa is really saying, is that there appears to be a correlation with something in your voice to something that other people who have COVID. So there’s a probability that you have, and there’s a, you know, they talk in this piece about being able to identify depression and all sorts of things and what you really get is, you might. There’s a high chance that you might have COVID, but you can’t test for COVID with the voice analysis you have to test for COVID with the test. So the promise here is bigger than the reality, I think.

[00:20:06] Stacey Harris: And there’s also been a danger in here in that again, taken too far, like all other analysis, right, that we’ve been talking about. This could preclude someone from getting into a building. And maybe because of the intersection between your age, your race, your cultural background, you know, What region of the country, you’re from all those things, add up to something that sounds similar to that thing that they’re looking for, for someone who has a virus and that limits you from doing something right.

[00:20:31] That’s the big fear in this kind of thing is that one or 2% of outliers are then treated differently in some way. And can we afford to do that to manage risk? That’s the conversation.

[00:20:43] John Sumser: Yeah, I think if you think about the history of the optical character recognition stuff, where as long ago, as 1982 or 83, you could get 80% accuracy out of optical character recognition software, but 80% accuracy meant 20 out of a hundred characters were wrong, which meant that the output of OCR was unintelligible at 80%.

[00:21:09] It wasn’t really, till you got character recognition up to the 99.999% range of accuracy that it became super useful. So you could scan something and get a reasonable facsimile of it out of the scanner. Same thing is going to apply here. So what’s missing from all of this is what’s the error rate. And the error rate on all of this stuff is going to be high.

[00:21:31] And when you deploy high error rates, you get things that are unintelligible, just like in OCR.

[00:21:37] Stacey Harris: Great analogy. Great comparison. And having worked in that space early on in my career, and with banks, trying to tell me that this document they had sent me had most of the information I needed, except for the most importan, I get that completely.

[00:21:50] So yeah. Well, maybe as a, as a wrap up today, we can talk a little bit about the two big players in this space, both Workday and Oracle launching, I think around the same time updates to their products that have to do with returning to work and Workday, particularly also launching their Vibe product, which is diversity and inclusion.

[00:22:10] You got a chance to sit in on the sessions. I took a look at all the notes and the information that they sent to me. It does look that Workday is taking a very thoughtful approach, particularly to the diversity and inclusion conversation, focusing on things like intersectionality equity and parity, the depth of the stuff that’s going on and work, not just the metrics of hiring someone, all things I think we’ve talked about, but your take on it.

[00:22:32] I mean, do you think, are these technologies ready to play a major part in us? Adjusting or doing a better job of achieving social parody inside of our organizations, or even addressing some of the social injustices that have been happening both inside of our organizations in our systems yet.

[00:22:49] John Sumser: Yeah. Well, so I personally hate the word intersectionality.

[00:22:54] It’s seven syllables, that mean, nobody is just one thing. Everybody is a combination of things you have ethnicity and you have gender. So everybody, everybody is some gender and some ethnicity. And so when you go and track diversity, as it expands inside of your organization, one thing you want to think about is not diversity as a single end state, but diversity amongst constituent groups.

[00:23:21] And they see intersectionality, but it really just means white female, white male, black female, black male, you know, so it’s just pairs of factors. And the Workday approach to that is an elaborate mapping system that allows you to see and manage incremental changes in each of those categories. And I’ve never seen anything like it, it was quite thoughtful, but I wonder if that’s the right way to manage the problem.

[00:23:49] And the reason I wonder if it’s the right way to manage this problem is that’s all based on how people tell you who they are and the actual, you know, there’s the regulatory diversity problem, which means you have to have your percentages lined up. You have to have the 4/5 percentage to meet the EEOC’s requirements.

[00:24:08] But the actual diversity question in the organization, doesn’t rest on how you see yourself or how you describe yourself in the self report. Data. Actual diversity depends on how other people see you, right? The people are not discriminated against because they check the box off they’re discriminated against because people around them think that they fit in the category and would wish the box will make sense.

[00:24:34] Stacey Harris: It does. And I think my perspective on this looking both at what Workday is doing, and also looking at the back to work stuff, that’s going on, both them and Oracle. But these are steps. These are steps that we have to take. It’s sort of like an environment where you don’t know what you don’t know until you wait into the water.

[00:24:50] And I think these are better steps than we’ve seen previously, which have just been these sort of metrics of we’ve hired so many women or have hired so many people of color. These give you a better, more full picture. What I think you’re talking about is a different conversation that has to be the next step and all of these, which is.

[00:25:06] Now that I am brought you back to work, or now that I’m, I’m looking at these metrics, my organization around ethnicity and background and culture, you now have to take the mirror image of that data of what the company thinks about an individual and what type of experience they’re having. And start to compare that.

[00:25:24] And I think that’s the piece that’s missing here, because it’s not just about how someone thinks about you in an organization. It’s also what you’re experiencing in that relationship, in that culture. So there is a big conversation to be had about changing the dynamics of the underlying system. And you can’t do that with a one way.

[00:25:41] Look, you have to do it with a multiple two. Wait look. So I think that what you’re saying is correct, I guess I would say that you have to take a couple of steps to get there.

[00:25:48] John Sumser: Oh, I think that’s right. And I don’t want to downplay how extraordinary Workday’s offering is. Right. You know, it’s sort of my job in the world to go, “yay!” that’s really good now why don’t you do something else?

[00:26:02] Stacey Harris: Little curmudgeonly but I get it. Yeah. Yeah.

[00:26:07] John Sumser: So I thought they’re back to work, offering their return to work was just extraordinary. That’s extraordinary. What they’re doing with both of these things is making complicated problems, easy to understand who they are, am the only brother I’d have in the return to work stuff is you need to be able to predict when it’s time to close.

[00:26:29] The most expensive thing that happened this year was we closed all the offices in a hurry. And so lots of things are left on done. Nobody left in an orderly way. Everybody’s left as if the building was on fire. And, and you reopen the thing that you’ve gotten? No, for sure. Is there some meaningful chance you’re going to have to repose.

[00:26:49] And so for my money, giving people operational so that you can reopen is step one, but being able to predict well in advance when you’re going to have to shut down so that you can minimize the cost associated with coming shutdowns is a critical feature.

[00:27:06] Stacey Harris: Yeah. I would agree with that. I think that’s a big part of it.

[00:27:09] I saw a little bit of it. They were looking at some of their certified partner models to maybe handle some of that stuff, but I agree. You can’t go back until, you know, how you would leave again. Yeah. And, and I saw similar things coming out, the Oracle conversation, they have the journeys, they have the video, they have the sort of approach to various check-ins and lists the same thing.

[00:27:27] I don’t think there was a lot of conversation about how you make the decision when it might be time to put the same type of leaving or move up the level of risk factors. All of those I think are good things that these organizations probably need to think a little bit more about. But great to see that they’re doing some of the work that they’re doing.

[00:27:44] I think it’s really good to see it coming out and in a way that will help these organizations who are struggling with this conversation. Boy, like I said, it’s a big week. Yeah. There’s still probably three or four more things we can do talking about, but we are at the end of our regular half hour, but it will be a continuing list of things that we will not get to between now and the end of October and November as we get into this, what is the traditional season of busy time for our business?

[00:28:07] John Sumser: Yep. Okay. Great conversation. Thanks for taking the time to do this. It’s always a treat and thanks everybody for listening in. This has been HR Tech Weekly with Stacey Harris and John Sumser. We’ll see you back here next week. Bye bye, now.

[00:28:27] Stacey Harris: Bye everyone, thanks.

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